There are many misunderstandings about autism and people with this disorder frequently have to deal with all kinds of assumptions and prejudice. Today, 2 April, is World Autism Awareness Day and a good occasion for us to reflect on autism and studying. Because what exactly is autism? And what challenges may students with autism encounter during their studies? We will give a brief explanation and explain what provisions Codarts has to offer in order to support students with autism.
What is Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)?
Autism is a congenital development disorder. People with autism process information differently. Therefore, they have difficulty in properly assessing (social) situations or in dealing with change. Then again, other things may be very easy for them, such as working very meticulously or being able to see details quickly.
How autism expresses itself varies per individual, both in what some are very good at and in what some find very difficult. What people with autism have in common is that they have trouble in correctly understanding and interpreting other people, as they tend to take language literally and do not notice tone of voice or understand non-verbal communication such as facial expressions. Frequently, they are either oversensitive or not sensitive at all to certain sensory stimuli such as sounds or pain.
About 1 per cent of the population is diagnosed with ASD. In the Netherlands this amounts to some 200,000 people. In reality the percentage is probably higher (maybe 3 to 5 per cent of the population) as only those who are officially diagnosed are represented in the official figures.
Studying with Autism
Students with ASD may have to cope with additional challenges during their study, such as:
- Difficulty in coping with changes, such as a new educational system, new fellow students and teachers, and living/studying in an unfamiliar city.
- Problems of flexibility, for instance when an assignment, a deadline, or the study schedule is changed.
- Concentration problems and stress as a result of overstimulation, uncertainty and/or changes.
- Trouble with processing information and with distinguishing between important and less important aspects of the study material.
- Problems with social interaction.
Some students with ASD will recognise several these examples more than other students with ASD, as they are all unique individuals.
“Last year Student Life organised an expertise development training for teachers and study coaches with the theme ‘autism and didactics’, where they received information and tips about guiding students with ASD.” – Boukje Kruit – van Rijn, Student Counsellor
Regulations and Provisions for Students with ASD
Codarts has a number of regulations and provisions to support students with ASD when necessary. For example, in consultation with the examination committee, students may be given extra time to take tests. In addition, they are entitled to extra coaching by their study coach (SLB) and mental coach, for instance in organising and planning their study and preparation for tests. Codarts also has a quiet room for students who wish to study in silence or just need to take a rest.
The above provisions are just examples. For each student with ASD their individual needs and possibilities are looked at, in consultation with the study programme management. Students with ASD who wish to use these provisions have to provide an official diagnosis and report their condition to the student counsellor in a timely fashion.
“In the Bachelor Dance in Education, a student with ASD gave various presentations on autism during his studies to his fellow students and people with whom he had to work. In the presentations, he explained how his brain works. As a result, there was more understanding for him and the way he works and studies, and we were able to guide him better during his study career. And importantly, he has given our team and his class many new insights into life with autism as a dancer and teacher.” – Ingrid Stoepker, Head of Dance in Education
Would you like to have more information?
For any questions, please contact the student counsellor: firstname.lastname@example.org.